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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with oncologist Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo, we discuss how Black/African American patients with multiple myeloma fare compared to patients of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. We also discuss the role of medical education in reducing health disparities.

MD Newsline:

How do Black/African American patients with multiple myeloma fare compared to patients of other racial/ethnic backgrounds?

Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo:

“So Black patients, unfortunately, do not fare as well as white patients with multiple myeloma. This outcome is not because the disease is more aggressive in Black patients. When provided with the same level of care, Black patients have a better prognosis. Contributing factors include lack of access to the latest treatments, including transplant, newer drugs, and combination therapies.

The death rate of Black men with myeloma is about 7.4 compared to 4 in white men and 5.4 in Black women compared to 2.4 in white women with the disease. So, nearly twice as many Black men and Black women with myeloma die from the disease than white men and white women with myeloma. So, we have a ways to go.”

 

MD Newsline:

Is there anything else you would like to speak on that we did not already cover?

Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo:

“Medical education has a big role to play in helping to decrease health disparities across all groups. When we start training future physicians to be aware of differences and be willing to step into them and understand them as opposed to pretending that they don’t exist or backing away, we will add more eyes to the situation. We’ll have more people who can say, ‘ok, this doesn’t look right,’ or, ‘that doesn’t feel right.’

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But if we don’t educate our trainees about what’s missing in the system, they won’t see what’s missing in the system. So I think medical education has a very big role to play in reducing health disparities.”

 

Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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